Small is good

I’ve been thinking back over the initial response I (and many other educators) had to Jarrod Drysdale’s heartfelt outburst about the story of his web app, Knack. He designed this to help teachers generate learner analytics that they might in turn use to agitate for change or demonstrate their accomplishments, and I’ve been engaged in a brief exchange of views on his blog on the way he reacted to its failure. First, I do think he’s right that in a culture that…

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In the education space?

“The education space” is an imprecise sort of street address that’s beginning to bother me.  It seems to mean something more than itself: not the precise space within which teaching or learning actually occurs, but the larger territory of business operations that brings together all those with an eye on the profits to be had from the future of education as a peculiar hybrid of market and service. And this week, there’s been some agitation in the education space. Firstly,…

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Actual results may vary

Here’s another quick finding in the tealeaves of educational technology prediction. Providing you can get through the argot of the deals, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, and patent showdowns, sometimes you find yourself face to face with the poetry of the safe harbor statement. It’s hard not to read it over and over to check that it still says what you think, and that it says it so beautifully. The safe harbor statement is a get-out clause currently derived from the Private…

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Shy?

Here’s one for the “learn something new every day” box. Last week Middle Seaman, via More or Less Bunk, alerted me to the idea that “the shy cannot learn.” It’s an intriguing diagnosis, not to mention very bad news for shy people everywhere, and I went off in search of its origins. Like any aphorism in translation, the exact deficit represented by shyness is really a matter of the intent of the original, and I’m not here to argue about…

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Going forward

One of the challenges facing a higher education institution trying to choose a new learning management system is the blind taste test that passes for product demonstration. Typically this involves being hustled through a demo site that’s been populated with made-up students in imaginary classes exchanging imaginary one-liners with each other via a discussion board, while imaginary academics set up imaginary course content, and the whole thing flows through to imaginary gradebooks or generates imaginary tracking reports. Because the number…

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What we’ve got here …

As the Chilean ash cloud wafts through Australian airspace for a second time, we’re all thrown back into the science of prediction. What will it do next? Nightly news footage of passengers sitting in grumpy heaps in airports has drawn an unusual degree of national attention to Darwin. It turns out that we have one of the world’s nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers right here in Australia, and they’ve been putting on their good shirts for the TV cameras night…

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WTF

I’m still brooding on Ben Wildavsky’s review of his trip to Australia for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Whenever a visitor says “Aussie” like he does, there’s a risk of a Bill Bryson moment. But this time the issue isn’t our wacky fauna, our laid-back attitude, or the many ways that Australian nature can kill you—it’s our acronyms. In a post-AUQA world, how will TEQSA make sensible use of the AQF, the ERA, the CEQ, the AUSSE, and perhaps the…

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Blank slate thinking

It seems we’ve made the decision to standardise our first year teaching mode to two hours of content delivery, with one hour weekly for class discussion.  At the moment, more than half teach in this way, but some disciplines offer shorter lectures and longer discussion.  It’s a classic bit of historical untidiness, like an uneven streetscape in an area destined for gentrification. Straightening this out will make our individual workloads easier to calibrate, and in turn this will make everything…

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Whatever

Musing on the news today that the Australian government has decided to scrap its distracting journal ranking scheme and look for other ways to tally up research quality outcomes across the sector, I found a colleague wandering the corridor and asked her what she thought. She works in a highly specialised research field, and has a strong commitment to research training right across the disciplines. This was her reaction: “Whatever.” And I think despite understandable levels of anger and frustration at…

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Blue skies, nothing but blue skies

Last week we were all invited to a meeting to engage in “blue sky thinking” in relation to the future positioning of the university, and our Faculty in particular. While this made some colleagues testy, for all sorts of reasons, I thought it was potentially worth a try—although also ambitious to imagine that a largish group of people who don’t get many opportunities to meet and talk would be able to come up with big ideas that are both achieveable…

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